A day of rest?

In June, Richard Hayes, the incoming president of the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) suggested there should be a ban on truck movements on Sundays.  He has written to the Transport Minister, Mike Penning to suggest that this is seriously considered. The response from Penning was fairly unequivocal… “We are not contemplating any ban on Sunday travel for LGVs….The cost to the economy through delayed delivery times and increased congestion at other peak periods means it would not be an effective option for the UK”.

There was, of course, a collective sigh of relief from hauliers, as any ban would clearly impact on vehicle utilisation; movements would have to be carried out on a different day of the week after-all.  To paraphrase Richard Hayes’ arguments it appears that there was a desire to reduce the stress on the network for the day, encourage more ‘local resilience’ in the supply of goods and services and to improve the ability to respond to weather and other disruptions.  Extreme weather and fuel shortages have led to supermarket shelves being empty in the past, however, this does not appear to be a consistent problem.  A move away from the supermarket culture and towards people sourcing their food locally through farmers markets for example could conceivably further this aim but does not appear likely any time in the near future.

It does seem to be a fairly perverse argument to cease freight movements on what is in reality the day with the least volumes of traffic on the road. A little digging on the DFTs website and a spectacularly, even surprisingly quick response to an email to their ‘statistics query’ team shows just how comparatively little activity there is at the weekend.  The graph below shows the % variance of vehicles on the roads against an average day.  Volumes on Sunday, unsurprisingly, are much lower than in the week. It seems the obvious conclusion from this that moving Sundays traffic into Saturday or the week would both clog up the network, add cost to hauliers operations whilst also having a damaging inflationary effect on the economy at large. In summary, not a bright idea.

% variance from average traffic volumes 2011

Source: Traffic (http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/series/traffic)

It does, however, highlight an opportunity for the industry to work towards moving more traffic at the weekend and ‘non-peak’ hours, properly use equipment 7 days a week and remove some congestion on the roads.  For March 2012, according to the DFT 85% of journeys were made ‘on time’ ie, not delayed by traffic congestion, which although clearly improvable is not catastrophically bad.  It would, however be advantageous to hauliers to be able to use the road network when it is most quiet.  The graph below neatly shows the volumes of traffic on roads by day and by hour, ‘100’ on the vertical axis representing the ‘average’ hour of the week.

Source: Traffic (http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/series/traffic)

It appears that in contrast to the calls for banning truck movements on a Sunday, continuing the journey from Monday to Friday 09:00-17:00 to 24/7 would be beneficial for hauliers, the road network and our country’s economic performance.

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